Zimmermann denies wrongdoing
Former City Councilmember Dean Zimmermann has been indicted on three counts of accepting cash and one count of soliciting property from people with business before the city of Minneapolis.
Zimmermann, a Green Party member, last fall lost in a close race for the redrawn 6th Ward to Robert Lilligren. He was elected to the Council in 2001 and served one term.
According to the indictment filed Jan. 18 in federal court in Minneapolis, Zimmermann, 62, accepted $5,000 in June from the developer of Chicago Commons, a condo and retail complex, in exchange for help in the developer's request for a zoning change.
In August 2005, on two occasions, Zimmermann allegedly took $1,200 and $1,000 in cash from the same developer in exchange for help on a retail development for the city's Somali community.
Zimmermann also allegedly asked the Powderhorn Residents Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing affordable housing, to build a retaining wall for his former partner at no charge after the group asked him to sign off on paperwork for the Franklin Station Townhomes in October 2004.
When the group said no, Zimmerman allegedly asked that the organization give him the materials so he could build it himself.
He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count.
Zimmermann is the third City Councilmember in the last five years to be charged with federal crimes. In 2001, Councilmember Brian Herron pleaded guilty to federal extortion charges and resigned two months before the primary. A year later, former Councilmember Joe Biernat also pleaded guilty to five federal felonies for accepting free plumbing work. Both served time in prison.
The indictment follows an investigation by the FBI. Five days before the Sept. 13 primary, federal agents raided Zimmermann's Whittier home and seized campaign records and other materials. Zimmermann admitted at the time to accepting the payments but has consistently maintained that he did nothing illegal.
Despite the investigation, Zimmermann continued with his campaign but lost by 46 votes.
While in office poverty and environmental issues topped his agenda. He commuted to City Hall by bike and urged city officials to stop burning fossil fuels in favor of alternative energy resources. He also was an outspoken critic of the city's ties to large corporations, and advocated for small local companies in their bids for city contracts.
When asked about the indictment, Zimmermann said, “Since no crime has been committed it's hard to see how there is going to be a conviction.”